Friday, 22 February 2019

Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr

Release Date: 22nd February 2019
Publisher: Roundfire Books
Genres:  Mystery /Thriller

Justice Gone, a mystery/legal thriller which publishes February 22, 2019, touches upon many topical, controversial issues in today's society as well as being a thrilling and engaging read. The story encapsulates current social issues: police brutality, homelessness, the plight of returning war veterans, the frenzy of the press, and the mechanics of the US judicial system.

"When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.

 A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran's counselor, is caught up in the chase.

Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa's patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield's dramatic capture.

Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?”

Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr. Tessa Thorpe.


Somewhere along my internet travels I came across this story: a homeless man beaten to death by police. What struck me was that the man was Caucasian, and I had already been conditioned by the news media that African-Americans were the chief victims of police brutality. The unfortunate individual was not a violent thug nor hardened criminal, but a rather frail person whose only offence was that he was an eyesore. Shirtless, with an unkempt beard, his crime was loitering.  And of course, the manner of his death, being pummeled to death, stands notoriously apart from the usual police shootings.

Eventually, I came across a series of YouTube videos that documented this event. There was a video recording taken from a closed circuit TV camera at the adjacent bus stop showing the beating, a silent witness to a brutal act. 

An internet search yielded more videos, more articles, more stories chronicling the event: the press conference held by the victim's father, the grand jury indictments of the police officers involved and their eventual trial where, astonishingly, they were acquitted. The fact that they were indicted and brought to trial at all was a precedent - up to that time no police officer had ever been prosecuted for excessive force in the history of Orange County, a tradition that likely imparted a sentiment of impunity on the part of the accused officers when they were partaking in their vicious act.

This incident was the seed from which my novel, Justice Gone, sprouted.

In my research on the homeless, I found out some shocking facts: that an average of 3.5 million Americans live on the streets. Thirty-five percent of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Twenty-three percent are U.S. military veterans and twenty-five percent are children under the age of eighteen years. On the other side of the coin, small towns just can’t afford to take care of these people without some help from the federal government, and neither can they withstand the social and economic impact of their presence.
Despite all these serious undercurrents, Justice Gone, as a piece of commercial fiction, is meant to entertain. The novel takes the form as a whodunit that culminates in a courtroom drama, and ends with a chilling finale.

The third part of the novel offers a detailed look at the American justice system, from arraignment and bail bond hearing to the announcement of the verdict. Included is a chapter dedicated to the jury's deliberation, a drama reminiscent of Reginald Rose's 12 Angry Men, and indeed I did I watch the film for inspiration. 

Once again, I uncovered some disturbing facts during my research. In New Jersey, as an example, 38 percent of the people incarcerated are those that couldn’t meet their bail bond. The overwhelming majority of them are guilty of municipal violations - unpaid parking tickets, driving with a suspended license, a few sticks of marijuana…none of whom pose a threat. I also learned the strategic role of demographics when picking a jury, how prosecutors will go to all lengths to keep African-Americans off the jury, since they tend to be sympathetic with the downtrodden and the underdogs, i.e. the defendant.

Needless to say, writing Justice Gone was an educational experience.


N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People's Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc.

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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